Trials and Tribulations

I am not an idiot. I like having this blog, but I know that the Tribune does not really need old lady blabbers who do not generate mad numbers of clicks.  Sports bloggers are the best, because they post up all the microscopic details that keep people revisiting.  People who do surveys are also prized.  Or have lists or slide shows that involve multiple journeys from slide to slide.  I cannot add photos of the celebrities who frequent my kitchen, like Billy Dec, who can take the pulse of the city.  This blog is a little courtesy extended to me by Bill Adee of the Tribune's interactive division.  I think he wanted to link Steve's home page, which DOES get traffic, but Steve wanted to keep his clicks "in house", just in case he could figure out how to monetize his site.  Bill was nice enough to offer me an orbit bigger than Janet's Planet.

Who knows how much longer I will be here?  My poor husband, who LOVED writing his column for the Tribune, was pruned last Friday, en route to a funeral.  They said budget, but Steve figured that despite the fact that his stretch preceded the arrival of Randy Michaels and Lee Abrams, when they left, he lost immunity.  And so he left the island.  He is pragmatic in the business world.  I pout.  I may soon be cast aside for lack of posts and clicks.   I will turn up somewhere, though.  I like to chat. I guess my real question is, should I quit in solidarity?  

 I am the news junkie out here.  Every day starts with my Trib, Sun Times, USA today, and AP headlines.  I ditched the Wall Street Journal, but cannot add the New York Times except on weekends.  I also pop in to the Detroit Free Press to stay connected to my family.  All of this information slithers through my brain like steam, but I am in love with information.  I just do not have the capacity to retain a lot of it.

I am feeling disloyal when I spread the Trib out on the kitchen island.  I am not sure I should still be blogging here.  I will not jump on the bandwagon to castigate Lee Abrams, because he has always been a stand up guy to Steve.  Sure, he is not one to be enslaved to conventions like grammar and such- and maybe he was an ill fit with the old-school model of journalism.  I can tell you that for better or worse, he does not lie.   He asked my son to look at a first generation version of the MTV style "news without people" that he was working on, and Matt was comfortable enough to make observations that challenged Lee's assumptions about young consumers of news.  I have not one inkling of how crazy his job performance was- I can only say that he is a curious, innovative person.  
Tribune Company is facing challenges in so many fronts-circulation, reorganization, litigation, revenue- that they needed to button up, I guess.  The message circulating in the publishing and broadcasting world is CHANGE OR DIE.  When medical patients are given that mandate, they often cling to the bad habits that resulted in their diabetes, heart disease or chronic illnesses.  When media employees hear CHANGE, they figure it means job cuts.  And so it has.  That is a heartbreaking, short term poultice, not a cure.   It does not begin to wrestle with the giant issue of what the informational and entertainment delivery system of the future will be.  That is hard work, and it is not often done well by people who fear for the loss of their livelihood. 
 I know that the people still laboring in newsrooms are working harder than ever, with less satisfaction.  Journalism rarely means a big payday, but the brotherhood of the newsroom, and the satisfaction of doing important work provides side benefits. But fatigue and disillusionment can create a sad and disgruntled workplace. It is hard to retain good production in that climate.  The Tribune is lucky that they still have a fine product, though the amalgamation of content from the affiliated papers, and the loss of local writers (Mo Ryan comes to mind) will eventually reduce our familial connection to the Trib. 
So far, I still have my favorites.   I have watched Phil Rosenthal masterfully cover this mess for the business section, and I really admire the tightrope he walked.  I still love Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich like they are my family. I enjoy Steve Johnson, adore Rick Kogan (and miss him in his diminished role) On the other side, I will NEVER understand why John Kass cannot write a political column without ham fisted titles for politicians. There is plenty of drama in the real names and events.  The fable format implies that we require a middle school delivery system.  I am not a fan. (I know the Trib does not care if you like him or hate him, as long as you read him.)  I like the local reviews, and of course, skim the obits daily, as befits a woman of my years.  I am not ready to desert my paper, but since I am connected to Steve, and he is cosmically connected with the exiled evil empire- the Trib just may eradicate me.  I cannot say that I blame them.  My life lacks the drama that drives clicking. Clicks are what advertisers buy.  But I am repeating myself.
I consider this a little manifesto, a palate cleansing as I refocus on whether I have enough color in my life to subject the Chicago Now audience to.  Or anything worth clicking to.  Stay tuned for a couple of days.  Maybe I can figure this out. 


Leave a comment
  • Stick it out until they THROW you out!

  • Hi Janet-Whatever you decide to do, I think those of us who have "grown up" with you and Steve and the boys, will remain loyal readers & listeners until you and Steve decide to pull the plug on sharing! I have been proud to tell my kids that yeah, I follow the blogs...which means you! And yeah, I am in to podcasts...which means Steve, but, I was just as happy with the radio and the newspaper. Does that make me old? I will sure be glad when all this "media delivery debate" starts to settle down! Good luck making your decision!

  • are the only blog I read at Chicago Now. So if you go...I go! Please let us know what you decide. I hope that you continue writing somewhere!

  • Janet, i read your blog all the time and find it most interesting and frequently touching...don't stop

  • Janet...I just found you about four months ago and so enjoy reading your blog. I remember living the single life on the near north side in the 80"s and listening to Steve (even went to a couple of live shows.) He was always giving you such a hard time. So nice to see what a lovely family you and Steve have. I hope you continue to write.

  • Janet-don't go!!! Your life has been part of our lives and your writing is top-notch. You would be missed. I hope you reconsider. You speak for many of us of a certain age.

  • PLEASE don't go. I know you want to support your husband, but as a mother of three (who are similar in ages to your boys), I enjoy reading your blogs. I can relate to every one of your stories. Also, my husband and I have recently relocated to Michigan, from Chicago, so I feel we are kindered spirits.

  • Janet I have loved reading you over the years and would surely miss your column. I read you faithfully and check back daily to see if there is a new post. DON"T GO!!

  • Whether it's ChicagoNow, Janet's Planet or another title, all I ask is you keep in touch with us. Mmmm. Didn't Steve have an "Ask Janet" segment way back when? You can have a weekly segment from your Basement! Buzzie's on once a week.

    I too love information but must admit that the ChicagoTribune is a shell of its former self. I read it only because I must for my work.

    I was hoping that Medill and Kellogg would use their braintrust to construct a biz model that worked for everyone. I'm not sure what they're doing up there besides charging a lot of $$ for an education (Sorry Pat).

    John Kass is lazy, formulaic and derivative.

  • I also read only your blog on Chicago Now. I hope they keep you here but things are in turmoil at the Trib right now. I also agree with you about John Kass. He repeats the same old "cute" names for politicians and follows the Republican party line. I'd love to see you write about politics. At least there would be some thought to your writing.

  • Janet, you have taken me into your family from the get go. That is why I call you mom. This is, like all your other blogs very interesting. I love your thoughts and words of wisdom! Point the way and your peeps will follow. Thank You for your friendship and kindness. xoxo

  • what??? Steve doesn't write a column any more? I live in western michigan, stumbled upon the podcast and your blog just recently. Why wasn't there a way to have an email notification of Steve's column? I always thought that was weird. I really like your blog and like Steve's column! Why is he not doing a column any more?

  • Janet...I just now registered with Chicago Now, so I can leave a comment. I, too, only read your blog here....though I'm sure there are several I'd enjoy. I am commenting for the sole reason that your posts, your voice, your talent, wisdom and loyalty to your family has been appreciated by me over the years. Specifically, when you write with such honesty and clarity about Steve's recovery from alcoholism, your feelings about it, and how you managed to "hang in there" through those tough years while raising a family...well, I've been, am still going through that myself. You validated something deep inside me that I'll always, always be grateful for. Please know, that what ever you do in the future, you have made many women/men smile, tear, and find a soul-sisterness about you through your words. Peace through the process to you~

  • I cancelled my Trib delivery this week, but I still want to read you & Steve via your blogs. The actual physical paper is killing itself - the online content is better. Keep it up.

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